I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, April 8, 2011

Of reporters and presidents and greeting cards. (Ooh, and Secret Service agents!)

I’m pretty sure there’s no better job for an aspiring novelist than newspaper reporting. It’s like a writer’s version of med school minus the mad-cap studying and cadavers.

As a reporter, I learned to ask good questions, research, and eventually write (pseudo) intelligently about stuff I knew nothing about. Like the time I wrote about a local biochemical company’s advances using industrial enzymes from bovine pancreases. Yeah, me? Clueless. But somehow the article made sense by the time I turned it into the editor.

Best thing about reporting? The crazy collection of experiences you pack into a week! Ride a hot air balloon? Check. Save a goat’s life. Check. (I’m not kidding. County fairs, intense stuff.) Appease a local farmer who is convinced the newspaper needs a photo of the bald eagle hanging out in a tree in the middle of his muddy field. Double-check. (Two checks ‘cause I ruined a pair of shoes in the process.)

My favorite reporting experience? The day the president came to town. Regardless of your political persuasion, a presidential visit is an impressive experience. The security, the crowds, the music. Uh, they played "Eye of the Tiger" as a prelude to the "Hail to the Chief"…to which I gave a resounding, What?! (But hey, a marching band played the James Bond theme when I saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. So, well, there you have it.)

While seeing the president was pretty cool, I have to admit I might’ve been even more impressed by the Secret Service guys. I'll never forget the moment an agent put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You're okay, kid.”

I'm okay. Kid. Right, so the last part wasn't quite as flattering. But I'm sure he meant “kid” in a Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca way. Not a, “Huh, you're dressed like a high schooler and your hair's a mess, but at least you've got a press badge” way.

Yep, while the Hulk in black shooed others off the press platform, he let me stay. Not going to lie – I felt important. Worthy. Chosen. Empowered by the approval of a Jack Bauer-like authority figure. A good feeling.

But probably not one us aspiring writers feel day in and day out. Gosh, it’s so easy to feel lost and uncertain in this whirl of “wanna be published.” And it’s easy, too, to feel un-approved. Unworthy. Un-chosen.

Yet, if there's anything we are, as Christians and as creative types, it's chosen. Maybe not necessarily (yet) by that agent or editor or publisher we've got our eyes on, but by Someone even bigger – the Someone who gave us our love for stories in the first place.

Simply by infusing us with creativity and a love for stories and talent – even if it's talent yet to mature – God has placed His mark on us. He's
chosen us to use what He's given us. Perhaps not in the way we expected – i.e. book printed and bound and on the shelf – but he will use us if we continue to nurture that storyteller in us.

At the first MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat back in 2010, fellow writer and Ponderer Beth Vogt gave each of us a print-out with words which, I believe, were originally written for a Dayspring greeting card. Today I've got that printout hanging in my writing room for those days when I need a reminder that I am indeed chosen.

Just think...
You are here not by chance but by GOD's choosing.
His hand formed you and made you the person you are.
He compares you to no one else; you are one of a kind.
You lack nothing that His grace can't give you.
He has allowed you to be here at this time in history 
to fulfill His special purpose for this generation.
You are GOD's servant in GOD's place at GOD's perfect time. 

Roy Lessin, Dayspring

That truth, friends, is even better than approval from a Secret Service agent! 

How about you? What lifts you up when you're feeling less than worthy of your writing dream? 

Melissa Tagg


  1. Lately I've been playing this little game where I try to guess, within the first paragraph or so, who wrote the post I'm reading. Because I’m lucky to remember my own designated date, I truly have no idea which Ponderer is up. For the past few months it's been so awesome; I almost always guess right because I have become so familiar with everyone's style and personality. I am absolutely delighted that I have begun to recognize each unique voice!

    Today I only had to read the title to know it was you, Melissa. It just "sounded" so much like you I could almost hear you saying it! Do you know what I love about every single one of your posts? It's how you entertain us for the first two-thirds or so, and then just when we aren't looking, you subtly hit us with a very wise, very timely, very encouraging truth that penetrates our hearts and provokes our thoughts. For me today? "Un-chosen."

    Thank you for the reminder that I am GOD's servant in GOD's place at GOD's perfect time. I am undeniably chosen.

  2. First I have to allow the awe at your experiences subside! Wow! The President. Buckingham Palace. Wahoo! I'd love to hear how saving the goat happened.

    Lately what has been an extreme help is all those at MBT who take time out of their busy schedules to help and encourage those of us just getting started. The advice and encouragement is invaluable.

    Other than praying, I use music. While reading the last part of your post, I thought of Josh Groban singing "You Raise Me Up." Thanks for the reminder that writing is God moving in and through me.

  3. Christine~

    She really has done a LOT of REALLY cool stuff, hasn't she?!?! Amazing. And I'd really like to hear the goat story too! Maybe we should demand that she tell it...

  4. I would like to request the goat story too.
    And the idea of a Secret Service guy saying, "You're okay, kid,"--wow.
    For me, it's so important to stay connected with other writers who "get" me, who know me. Hhhhm, maybe that's why the Ponderers are on speed dial on my cell! Sometimes just talking it out with another writer--having someone listen to me and pray with me. That can make all the difference when the dream of writing seems out of reach.

  5. Agreeing with Christine and Heidi and Beth about the goat story! You always have the best hooks. And thanks for adding "just think". I'd misplaced mine and now I have it again!

  6. All right, per your requests, without further ado...the goat story (complete with runaway cow)...

    So, I'm covering the county fair, like every summer back when I was reporting, and this particular afternoon is the goat show. Always fun. Mostly 'cause the 4-H kids are so cute. I'm standing just outside the show ring, snapping photos, and lined up along the railing are several goats, plus lots of kids and parents, waiting their turn to enter the ring.

    Suddenly, commotion breaks out as a cow escapes from one of the barns to the east! The cow comes running into the dusty area outside the show ring, followed by, I assume, the poor kid who let him escape. All attention zooms from the goat show to the understandably more entertaining cow-on-the-loose spectacle.

    I'm laughing my head off, when suddenly I hear a wheezing sound at my feet. I look down. A group of goats - ready for the group-of-three show - is roped to the railing and the middle goat, who probably got a little too excited by the escaped cow, has tangled himself all up and is laying on the ground totally choking!

    I drop my camera into the camera bag and rush to his rescue. (Okay, more like tentatively reach down to help him...) One of the other goats, also very wound up, almost kicks me in the face. So, I do the only thing I know to do in a life-and-death goat situation...tug on the sleeve of the probably 12-year-old kid next to me and say, "Uh, I think your goat is choking."

    The kid jumps into the fray and picks up his goat. And his dad, standing nearby, says, "Thank the reporter, son. She saved your goat."

    Okay, so, technically, the kid did the real saving. But if the dad is going to give me credit, I'll take it.

    Only sad part of the story? In my "I must save this goat!" frenzy, I missed what happened with the runaway cow... :(

  7. "Uh, I think your goat is choking." I am howling here! No wonder you are such a great writer...you have so many fantastic stories from which to draw!! Thanks for sharing! =)

  8. Thanks, Melissa, for the laugh. I needed it on my day when I want to run away to Australia. :) I do the same thing Heidi does--trying to figure out who is writing each of the Ponderer posts. :) I had yours figured out today; I love your voice!

    As I read about us being chosen, one of my favorite songs came to mind. We are chosen, and our writing, at whatever ability and level we are at, ideally is written for our Audience of One. He has chosen us; He has given us the stories He wants us to write. He has given us friends and fellow writers to encourage us along our journeys.

    And, as I am stuck right now, I think I'm going to have to give a writing friend a call a little later today for encouragement and help. :)

    Thanks for reminding me that I am chosen and loved by the most important Person ever!

  9. I have to stop checking in on this site during the day. I'm turning purple trying to choke back the laughter. My classroom door is open and if they hear me cackling it will only confirm the fact that I've lost my mind.

  10. Goat ... choking ...
    Oh, please. Who else would this happen to?

  11. Sooo funny! I love it, M-Tagg.

    Beyond that, it's a pretty crummy day over here, so chosen was just what I needed to hear. Thanks, friend.

  12. Thanks for the comments, folks...I had fun writing the original post and telling the goat story. Oh, the reporter's life...

    Amy, I saw through facebook that today's a hard day for your family. Praying for you and Gregg and all the Lindbergs.

  13. Christine, I'm picturing your students whispering about the sanity of their teacher who is cackling away...hehe...:)

  14. Melissa, you're a peach--and you're going to go far in all avenues of life!

  15. Only on the Ponderers' blog can one find goats, bovine pancreases, the president of the United States, and Buckingham Palace all in the same post! ;-)

  16. I'm giggling. LOL. Love the your-goat-is-choking thing. I bet that's a line you never thought you'd say, huh?

  17. Oh MTagg,
    You are priceless! Thanks for the reminder...I'm going to put the poem by my computer as a reminder. Lately I've had to work hard to fight discouragement. He's given me all that I need by HIS Grace.